Harassment, delays mark registration of ARMM voters

Posted on July 10, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Pockets of harassment and delays in some areas marked the first day of general registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the poll body said, but the listing still proceeded as planned.

Director James Arthur B. Jimenez, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman, said the relisting of voters “generally opened on time.”

Comelec personnel in Maguindanao were reportedly intimated by an unidentified group on Sunday evening, he said.

“We are trying to establish the identification of the group who harassed our personnel, whether they are from the politicians, or just plain bandits,” said Mr. Jimenez.

Incidents of harassment were also reported by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, whose volunteers in Maguindanao province was mauled.

“Let us pray and support the new protector and heroes of the people’s suffrage for duty for God and Country,” the group, the Comelec’s citizen arm, said in its Facebook account.

Mr. Jimenez said the registration in Mapun and Turtle island -- municipalities in Tawi-Tawi province have not started as bad weather situation prevented poll personnel from delivering registration machines.

Comelec officials led by Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. flew to Tawi-Tawi yesterday to personally oversee the progress of registration.

Meanwhile, three registration centers in Lanao del Sur province that service 100 villages have suffered delays due to lack of electricity, said Mr. Jimenez.

“We have more than 300 generating sets for Lanao del Sur. More than half are already for deployment,” he said.

The general registration in ARMM was aimed at cleansing the voter list, which the Comelec described as bloated and inaccurate figure, even as the region was tagged as a source of poll fraud during the previous administration, in particular during the 2007 senatorial elections.

“There’s a commitment to clean the election in ARMM,” said Mr. Jimenez.


For her part, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, women sectoral representative in the ARMM regional assembly, said her group has received reports of illegal voters entering Lanao del Sur.

“Incident reports have yet to be filed but this early we hear from the 103rd Brigade of Lanao del Sur that hakot [bringing in] of non-ARMM voters are being done in far-flung towns of Lanao del Sur,” she claimed.

As a protective measure in the volatile region, the Comelec placed the entire ARMM and the nearby cities of Cotabato in Maguindanao, Isabela in Basilan, Zamboanga and Iligan, and the whole province of Sultan Kudarat under a 30-day gun ban starting July 1 to thwart possible political-driven armed conflicts during the general relisting of voters.

In a related development, Elias R. Yusoph, Comelec commissioner who hails from the region, called on qualified voters to re-register to be able to vote in the midterm elections in 2013.

ARMM groups the provinces of Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Elections in ARMM were originally set for Aug. 8, 2011 but were moved to coincide with the May 2013 midterm poll.

The change in poll schedule was to allow the administration, through its appointed officers-in-charge, to institute reforms in regional governance given reports of massive graft and corruption at the local level. -- D. T. Wee with a report from L. O. Pacardo